Google applies for patent on contact lens camera

Devin Coldewey
Georges Gobet | AFP | Getty Images

Google's research department is cranking out ideas for eye-worn electronics. Just a few months ago saw the company's patent application for a glucose sensor in a contact lens — now it is looking at integrating a full-on camera.

The application, uncovered by Patent Bolt, is one of many recent ones relating to methods for adding chips and components of various kinds to contact lenses. In the illustrations, a tiny camera sensor is seen just below where the eye's iris would be, and various accompanying electronic bits are connected.

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Uses for the contact lens camera range from facial recognition and picture-taking to getting directions or receiving warnings about oncoming vehicles. The image capture device would likely sync with a smartphone, allowing most of the heavy-duty processing and display to be done there.

This phone-centric method of operation is similar to that of Google's Glass headset, and of many other wearables, such as fitness wristbands and smartwatches.

Of course, this is all largely theoretical at the moment; there's no indication Google has a working prototype, though such things are certainly under development elsewhere. And a device like this (or any worn on the eye) would have to pass rigorous testing by the FCC and FDA to be sure of its safety.

So far Google has only publicly acknowledged the blood sugar testing lenses, and not the camera ones — though no actual product has been announced in either case. But with wearables growing more popular by the day, you can be sure the company is pursuing this field actively.

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—By Devin Coldewey of NBC News